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Orca calf spotted with J pod off coast of Vancouver Island

The J pod has a new member, marking the second Southern Resident birth in the last five months.
Credit: John Forde and Jennifer Steven

A new orca calf was spotted with the J pod Thursday, bring the population of the Southern Resident killer whales up to 76.

Center for Whale Research Executive Director Ken Balcomb officially documented a new, female calf in the J pod designated as J56. 

J56 was likely born in late May off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia. The baby’s mother is 24-year-old J31. 

RELATED: Southern Resident orcas spotted inland for first time this summer

The Whale Centre in Tofino, British Columbia said in a blog post it received reports the pod about four miles off Lennard Light and headed out to find the whales. The orca calf was seen with both J41 and J19.

“We were both really excited to see the calf was very orange and still had fetal folds,” the blog post read.

The Whale Centre says it typically sees the J pod once a year; the last time it spotted the family was last year on June 8 when they were heading down the coast.

This is the second Southern Resident that has been born in the last five months. In January, researchers identified another orca calf in the L pod, L124 or Lucky. That calf was last seen back in March and appeared to be in good health.

Washington’s struggling Southern Residents sparked national attention last year after its population dropped to an over 30-year low. A variety of factors threaten the orcas, including dwindling prey, pollution, and boat noise.

RELATED: Complete coverage on saving the orcas

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